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The Line Becomes A River: Dispatches from the Border
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The Line Becomes A River: Dispatches from the Border

3.92  ·  Rating details ·  3,746 Ratings  ·  660 Reviews
For Francisco Cantú, the border is in the blood: his mother, a park ranger and daughter of a Mexican immigrant, raised him in the scrublands of the Southwest. Haunted by the landscape of his youth, Cantú joins the Border Patrol. He and his partners are posted to remote regions crisscrossed by drug routes and smuggling corridors, where they learn to track other humans under ...more
Hardcover, 256 pages
Published February 6th 2018 by Riverhead Books
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Kristi Groseclose I read an article and the author said he knows where he's at and he's not safe, but wouldn't elaborate anymore on it. Sad. Very sad.

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Will Byrnes
Feb 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: biography, nonfiction
“There are 690,000 official DACA registrants and the president sent over what amounts to be two and a half times that number, to 1.8 million,” Kelly said. “The difference between (690,000) and 1.8 million were the people that some would say were too afraid to sign up, others would say were too lazy to get off their asses, but they didn’t sign up.”
Immigration experts cite various reasons why people eligible for DACA’s protections do not apply. These include lack of knowledge about the program, a
...more
Maureen
Nov 24, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: netgalley
*3.5 STARS*

Francisco Cantú grew up on the US / Mexican border where his mother, ( a second generation Mexican - American ) was a park ranger. Francisco loved the landscape - the national parks and desert landscapes, and living in close proximity to the border ignited a curiosity in him to learn more about border control. He decided to pursue a degree in border relations, and although his studies provided some insight into the problems, he needed to see how things worked in the real world, and be
...more
Dianne
Aug 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: best-of-2018
I really enjoyed this book and don’t understand at all the venom being directed at the author, a former U.S. Border Patrol Agent. Looking at some of the reviews of this book, it’s pretty clear the most vitriolic reviewers never read the book at all or read only a portion of it. I think Cantu presents a pretty balanced and fair view of U.S. and Mexico border issues and the impact policy has on lives on both sides of the border.

Cantu earned a degree in International Relations and learned a lot abo
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Montzalee Wittmann
Feb 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing
The Line Becomes A River (Hardcover) by Francisco Cantú is a very emotional book. I was angry, depressed, sad, but I don't think I was happy once in the book. The guy of the story, his mother was a ranger and he grew up loving the outdoors and near the border. He has Mexican heritage. Interested in the politics of the border, he takes classes in college and gets a degree but still he wants to be up close and know more. He becomes a border guard and describes the training and what it was like. He ...more
Nat K
"I dream in the night that I am grinding my teeth out, spitting the crumbled pieces into my palms and holding them in my cupped hands, searching for someone to show them to, someone who can see what is happening."

This book is INTENSE.

I cannot imagine being a border patrol officer anywhere, let alone an area with so much historical significance and fraught with as much difficulty as the U.S/Mexico border.

I think it would be soul destroying. I believe that most people become officers with the best
...more
Rebecca
Francisco Cantú was a U.S. Border Patrol agent in Arizona and Texas for four years. Agents tracked illegals using the same skills with which hunters stalk their prey. Once captured, the would-be immigrants were detained, processed and deported. Days in the field were full of smuggled drugs, cached belongings and corpses of those who’d tried to cross in inhospitable conditions. Even when Cantú was transferred to a desk job, he couldn’t escape news of Mexican drug cartels and ritual mutilation of ...more
Trish
Mar 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Trish by: Diane
This book seems too small for all it accomplishes. The quiet watchfulness and introspection of the Prologue tamps down opinion before it develops. We are here to listen, to understand. It is such a quiet read, immediately alert to the tension inherent in a grandson of immigrants policing the border.

This is a beautiful book, a beautiful physical object. Riverhead Books formatted the inside to be a kind of art, using gray pages to separate the sections and lines to guide our eye, delineate our tho
...more
Canadian Reader
Slim and beautifully written, The Line Becomes a River is a powerful, deeply humane piece of nonfiction about the lives of Border Patrol agents and desperate migrants on the frontier between the U.S. and Mexico. This is a hybrid work: part memoir, part meditation, part expository piece. Richly allusive, it refers to the works of many writers on immigration, history, politics, and psychology. Aspects of Mexico’s geography—its flora and fauna, its culture and history, its wars of independence an ...more
Meike
Sep 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2017-read, usa, mexico
"When I was in school, I spent all this time studying international relations, immigration, border security. I was always reading about policy and economics, looking at all these complex academic ways of addressing this big unsolvable problem. When I made the decision to apply for this job, I had the idea that I'd see things in the patrol that would somehow unlock the border for me, you know? I thought I'd come up with all sorts of answers. And then working here, you see so much, you have all th ...more
Wendy Trevino
Jan 13, 2018 rated it did not like it
This is a book for the #bluelivesmatter & #alllivesmatter crowd. I hate that crowd.

from an interview in the San Antonio Express News:

"Q. How does the image of the Border Patrol square with your experience?

[Cantu]: Agents have been represented as callous, and they have come to expect that. But some of the people I worked with were some of the most intelligent, humane people I’ve ever met. It’s the largest law-enforcement force in the country, 18,000 agents. It’s bigger than the FBI and the DE
...more
Taryn Pierson
I was not aware of the controversy surrounding this book and its author when I chose to read it. Had I known how hurtful some would find this book, I wouldn't have prioritized it, and I definitely would have sought out a library copy instead of paying for one. I take the protesters' point that people who are concerned about the state of the U.S./Mexico border should seek out the voices of immigrants who have experienced it firsthand very much to heart, and such a book is next up on my reading li ...more
Oki
Jan 14, 2018 rated it did not like it
Shelves: abandoned
I don't find the ethics of this book interesting, nuanced, complex, or human. What's being posed here, is the worst that literature has to offer, and is a variation of a genre already used by the cultural propagandists of the so-called "free world." It's a cop-loving dead end of a universe, made by collaborating with the forces of death that this book pretends to mourn, it is selfish and degrading. This book tries to humanize hunting down other people.
Jaclyn Crupi
Feb 11, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is so good! Cantú was a US border control agent for four years and ‘The Line Becomes a River’ is a true reckoning of what he witnessed, did and was implicit in. It’s heartbreaking and so well written!
‘I don’t know if the border is a place for me to understand myself, but I know there’s something here I can’t look away from. Maybe it’s the desert, maybe it’s the closeness of life and death, maybe it’s the tension between the two cultures we carry inside us.’
‘The part of you that is capa
...more
Neil
Jan 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2018, 5-stars, netgalley
"Some politicians in the United States think that if a mother or father is deported, this will cause the entire family to move back to Mexico. But in fact, the mothers and fathers with the best family values will want their family to stay in the U.S., they will cross the border again and again to be with them. So you see, these same people, the ones with the most dedication to their family, they begin to build up a record of deportation, they have more and more problems with the government, and ...more
Stephen
Nov 06, 2017 rated it really liked it
thanks to the publishers and netgalley for a free copy in return for an open and honest review

found this book very interesting in light of current developments in american politics and history. the author expresses himself as the dehumanisation of the whole process of deportation and border patrol but at same lights gives some insight into mexican history too. The first part of the book took awhile to get going for me but the latter part of the book to me was more personal and humble.
Claire Reads Books
Jul 20, 2018 rated it liked it
3.5 ⭐ There’s a lot to admire here in the way Francisco Cantú writes about the US/Mexico border, but his own place within the story (his Mexican heritage, his motivations for joining the Border Patrol, and his regrets about implicating himself in a deeply flawed system) remained hazy for me. This is a book of loosely-structured vignettes, but I wish it had had a clearer framework—it reads like a promising first work that could be fleshed out into a more substantial, probing book. ...more
Dan Friedman
May 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
What does a college degree in international relations prepare you for? For Francisco Cantú, it was four years in the U. S. Border Patrol—described by his own mother as ”a paramilitary police force” and ”a system, an institution with little regard for people”— on the southwest American border. Coming from a Mexican-American family with deep roots in the southwest and family ties in both the U.S. and Mexico, The Line Becomes a River: Dispatches from the Border Cantú portrays himself as on a search ...more
Diane Yannick
Feb 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing
In rating this book, I have ignored a few narrative flow problems that occasionally annoyed me. (You can tell the author is a poet who doesn’t want to be constrained by sequential, focused narrative arcs.) I gave it this rating because this is an important point of view to hear in the whole immigration debate. People have boycotted some of Cantu’s book signings because to them he represents the evils of police brutality. I question whether these protestors have read the entire book.

Cantu, who h
...more
Roman Clodia
Jan 14, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
So you see, there is nothing that can keep me from crossing. My boys are not dogs to be abandoned in the street. I will walk through the desert for five days, eight days, ten days, whatever it takes to be with them. I'll eat grass, I'll eat cactus, I'll drink filthy cattle water, I'll drink nothing at all. I'll run and hide from la migra, I'll pay the mafias whatever I have to. They can take my money, they can rob my family, they can lock me away, but I will keep coming back. I will keep crossi
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Barbara
Exquisitely written. Cantú worked for 4 years as a Border Patrol agent, after earning a degree in international studies focused on the border, he decided he wanted to see it for himself. Cantú is fluent in Spanish, and though his ancestry is only one-quarter Mexican, he has a deep understanding of the culture, and knows the history of his Mexican ancestors. His Mexican American mother had worked as a US Ranger in a national park in the Southwest because she wanted to be close to nature. She didn ...more
Kelly
An extremely frustrating read about Cantu's time as a border patrol agent and then his desperate desire to be redeemed because he deigns to accept Mexicans attempting to cross the border as human when he makes a friend of one after he leaves his job. Cantu is Mexican-American, so the reviews suggesting it's a white guy's story are incorrect -- the Mexican-American aspect is precisely why I picked this up, and it's precisely why I'm so irritated that there's literally no explanation for why Cantu ...more
Rachel Aranda
Reading this book was informative as I’ve always wondered what personal experiences a Border Patrol Officer goes through. There was a mixture of memories with mom, sad experiences dealing with illegal immigrants, and much more in this book. It’s worth a read for the variety of stories the author shares. It was nice reading a book from someone who served as law enforcement as I rarely find cops turned authors.

Speaking of the author, this book has some controversy as he served as a Border Patrol O
...more
Janet
Mar 03, 2018 rated it really liked it
I wasn't sure what to expect from this book. I knew that Cantu was a former Border Agent and also Mexican American so I felt his perspective would be unique and worth examining. Living as I do in Arizona, border and deportation issues are always in the forefront of my mind.

Cantu, who majored in international studies in college, takes a job with the border patrol in order to deepen his understanding of illegal immigration in a very hands on way. Interspersed with his work experiences are dreams,
...more
Conor
This is the story of a Mexican-American who goes to the borderlands to work with border patrol, losing much of himself and his equanimity in the process.

As with most first-time authors I read, I tried to find out a bit more about Francisco Cantú. Aside from seeing that he is quite a handsome, mustachioed young man, the first hits were all about protests of his book readings, claiming that this book was a vehicle for glorifying the work of the agents and expiating their sins. Thirty pages in, I
...more
Sarah
I feel like any words I use to try and describe this book will fall short of conveying what Francisco Cantú achieves here in this relatively short book. I'd recommend reading Meike and Conor's great reviews to get an idea of what this is about and for some insightful thoughts on the topic.

A particularly timely book, and one I think everyone in America (and anywhere to be honest) should read to get a greater understanding of the topic. This one will stay with me for a very long time to come.
Judith E
Apr 08, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
I am naively Midwestern and what I know about the US/Mexican border is from news blips. I am basically uninformed. Mr. Cantu's journey from border patrol agent to an advocate for a deported Mexican immigrant is very revealing. He separates the individual experience from the mind numbing mass migration and deaths. This is a very complicated problem and he provides us with a look at the brutal, dangerous desert crossing combined with specific stories of desperation.

I had some issues with the styl
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Elizabeth☮
Jun 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
I heard Cantu read sections from this one on This American Life and knew I wanted to pick it up. He tries to keep emotions out of the argument, but Cantu's history is inextricably tied up to the history of Mexico (and all that lies below it) and that border changed and found many of his forebears found themselves on the wrong side of an arbitrary line.

In the end, the question is not about politics or sides, but, rather, about humanity and grace.
Bookforum Magazine
"I came to think of The Line Becomes a River as an attempt to counter these dehumanizing metaphors. Cantú has written an insistently humane book, or maybe just a human one. It does not presume to be an account of what the border means, or a theory about what should be done about it; rather, it's an exploration of how the border feels, and what happens to the people who get caught in its gears. The account is necessarily fractured, incomplete–after all, a border is not something you can see in it ...more
Onceinabluemoon
Sep 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Gut wrenching... I have tremendous empathy for migrant workers, risking their lives to just work and feed their families. I held back tears so many times, my stomach has been churning. It's the luck of the draw where you are born, we all want the same things in life, I have hired some who have crossed over for the chance of a better life, every single one was good, kind, trustworthy and extremely hard working. A wall is not the answer...
Tara - Running 'n' Reading
Feb 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A native Texan, I have visited several areas along the Texas-Mexico border: Brownsville/Matamoros; McAllen/Reynosa; Laughlin Air Force Base, near the Rio Grande; Big Bend National Park; and El Paso/Ciudad Juarez. For several years, my father was a partner in a land lease for deer hunting; he would leave home (Beaumont), head west on I-10, and travel for what seemed like, from childhood memories, forever.

The rancher explained how he used to get calls from men who said they wanted to buy land to
...more
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Francisco Cantú served as an agent for the United States Border Patrol in the deserts of Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas from 2008 to 2012. A former Fulbright fellow, he is the recipient of a 2017 Whiting Award. His essays and translations have been featured on This American Life and in Best American Essays, Harper’s, Guernica, Orion, n+1 and Ploughshares. He lives in Tucson, Arizona.
“As I swam toward a bend in the canyon, the river became increasingly shallow. In a patch of sunlight, two longnose gars, relics of the Paleozoic era, hovered in the silted waters. I stood to walk along the adjacent shorelines, crossing the river time and again as each bank came to an end, until finally, for one brief moment, I forgot in which country I stood. All around me the landscape trembled and breathed as one.” 3 likes
“There are days when I feel I am becoming good at what I do. And then I wonder, what does it mean to be good at this?” 2 likes
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